Nginx vs Apache: Which Is the Best Web Server?

While there are many distinct types of server software, the competition is usually boiled down to Nginx vs Apache. This is because both provide excellent performance for a wide range of server configurations and are better suited to particular applications than the other.

Even so, you should think about which of them makes the most sense for your purposes. There are several areas to investigate, including operating system (OS) support, security, documentation, and (of course) performance.

In this essay, we’ll look at how Nginx and Apache compare in a variety of aspects. Finally, we’ll summarize our findings and provide you with all the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

Nginx vs Apache are two popular web servers.

Let’s go through the basics of both Nginx and Apache before we get into the nitty-gritty of each server type. You’ll learn about some of the use cases for both when we get to the following section, as well as where you might see them ‘in the wild.’


Nginx vs Apache

Nginx (pronounced “engine X”) is a relative newcomer to the realm of server-side technology as compared to Apache. The development team, on the other hand, was tasked with going beyond the boundaries of Apache systems.

It’s an open-source solution that many users like because of its scalability and stability. This is due (in part) to its event-driven architecture, which will be discussed further below. In fact, one of the initial goals for Nginx was to be able to handle 10,000 simultaneous connections. Because of the quickly developing internet at the time, this was necessary for 2004.

Nginx is popular among sysadmins and site owners because it is fast, works well with static files, and serves as both a load balancer and a reverse proxy. All of these factors affect uptime, performance, and security.


Nginx vs Apache

Apache is the ‘granddaddy’ of web server technology. It’s almost as old as the internet itself: Apache has been at the heart of hundreds, if not millions, of servers since 1995.

Apache has long been the most popular technology among sysadmins.’ There are a variety of reasons for this, some of which are performance-related and others which are simply a matter of habit. Regardless, Apache servers are frequently used in situations where customizations are critical.

Apache is pre-installed on all Linux distributions, making it a go-to solution for that OS. Despite the fact that it has a different design than Nginx, it still has the same power, scalability, and documentation.

Many sysadmins appreciate how adaptable Apache is, and how you can personalize a server by loading numerous modules.

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The most common scenarios in which Nginx vs Apache are used

When it comes to serving webpages, Apache can be described as a “jack of all crafts.” This, however, is a mixed blessing. Yes, Apache servers can accomplish nearly everything that Nginx can, albeit at the cost of slower code. Age has a role in this.

The Apache codebase couldn’t accomplish what it needed to serve modern websites because it was written before we had some of the more complex web server apps. While these flaws aren’t immediately concerning, a solution like Nginx is designed with the contemporary web in mind.

As a result, Apache is an excellent easy-to-configure server for applications like shared hosting. Its integrations allow it to be used as a local development server as part of the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP).

In comparison to Apache, Nginx has a more mature software foundation with more streamlining. It’s beneficial in situations when stability and security are critical. You’ll notice that an Nginx server is less adjustable than other sorts, which means you’ll have less access to its core.

Furthermore, it is not modular in the same manner as Apache is, making it less suitable for situations where server customization is required.

Nginx vs Apache: Which server is more popular?

The server software was once regarded as a one-horse race. For many years, Apache was the dominant force, and it still has a substantial market share. As a result, there are numerous integrations and support for Apache servers, as well as excellent documentation.

This adds to the appeal of using Apache and encourages its continuous use. Nginx, on the other hand, is server software with a sizable market share. Nginx usage has steadily increased over time, to the point that it is now the most popular web server technology on the market, albeit by a small margin.

Looking ahead, we believe Apache will become less popular as Nginx delivers most of what sysadmins require in a web server. LiteSpeed Web Server and Cloudflare Server, on the other hand, are on the horizon and have a large user base and support. This comparison could compare Nginx to one of these newer upstarts in a few years.

A technical comparison of Nginx versus Apache’s capabilities and functionality.

The next sections will go over some of the technical differences between Nginx and Apache. While we won’t be able to cover everything, we will devote enough time to the most important topics. In any event, because these are the key characteristics of both server types, you’ll have plenty of information to choose the best software for your needs.

Handling requests and establishing connections

Because connections are a server’s “fundamental currency,” understanding how it handles them is critical. It’s debatable, but when it comes to comparing the relative merits of Nginx vs Apache, connection handling is a huge factor.


Nginx is asynchronous and event-driven, which means it can handle numerous requests at the same time and execute them as resources become available. It creates ‘worker processes’ to deal with the incoming connections, which it expects to number in the hundreds at any given time. The rest of the server’s ‘water carriers’ are these.

Each worker process, for example, will listen for process events and connections and add them to a loop. The server can then process each event and delete it when it’s finished. Scalability is built into the flow of an Nginx server, as well as the async, non-blocking design.


Apache, on the other hand, uses a number of Multi-Processing Modules to handle events one at a time (MPMs). A sysadmin will select the best connection architecture for the task, which can be one of several.

The MPM prefork module is a widely used module. For each event, a child process is created, and only one connection is processed at a time. When the number of processes exceeds the number of requests, it’s difficult to determine the difference in performance between Nginx and Apache.

However, this is a rare occurrence, because, on many occasions, an Apache server will receive more requests than processes. Furthermore, due to memory use, this MPM does not scale effectively.

MPM prefork is the only secure way to deal with the mod PHP interpreter module for PHP developers. Despite the disadvantages, if a WordPress developer must deploy to an Apache server, this will be the MPM they use.

You’ll also come across the MPM worker and MPM event modules. These do the same thing, but they scale better because they can generate several processes per collection of threads.

Despite the performance drawbacks in some circumstances, this batch of MPMs demonstrates Apache’s flexibility.

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Request handling for static vs dynamic content

Before we go any further, let’s talk about static vs. dynamic content for each server program. You’ll notice that Nginx can’t handle dynamic content, which may lead you to be concerned. Nginx, in fact, will not process this type of material natively. Instead, it will transfer information to an external processor (such as a cache) and wait for it to return before continuing with the procedure.

A sysadmin will set up a solution such as Memcached for development. This strategy has drawbacks, particularly in terms of performance. However, the benefits to each section of the chain’s performance overheads outweigh this. Nginx doesn’t have to bother about processing these requests, allowing it to focus more effectively on its core responsibilities.

Without the use of additional modules, Apache’s MPM architecture allows it to process both static and dynamic information. Apache embeds a language processor in each worker for dynamic content. It’s a straightforward strategy that works nicely. If you need to make a change, you can also swap out modules.

Setting up the server

The way you configure each server is one of the more obvious differences between Nginx and Apache. Nginx employs a centralized approach, which means that a user cannot configure a server other than through a single main file. While this may appear to be a disadvantage, there are numerous benefits:

  • The server administrator is in charge of global security, which restricts access to the entire server.
  • The performance of a centralized server is superior to that of other types. This is due to the fact that Nginx will no longer be required to handle requests to check for configuration files in each directory.
  • There’s a knock-on effect here, as there won’t be any server overrides from numerous areas, reducing request times even further.

The presence of .htaccess files is one way for a layperson to tell if they’re using an Apache server. These are configuration files that can be added to your server practically anywhere. When a request is made, Apache will look for a .htaccess file in each element in the route.

This is great for users who want to customize their server, but it might be disastrous if one of the directives causes performance or security problems. One of the reasons you’ll see Apache on shared hosting is because of its decentralized architecture. It’s also one of the reasons why content management systems (CMS) like WordPress operate well on Apache servers.

Make an interpretation request

The way Nginx and Apache interpret requests is a fundamental difference that isn’t immediately evident. In a nutshell, this is how it goes:

  • Nginx uses a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) for each component to parse and map requests.
  • Although Apache may parse requests using URIs, it’s more common to see a file-based path structure.

Because Apache is primarily a web server, it will describe resources using the Directory>, Files>, or Location> blocks. The important principle here is that everything Apache’sees’ is related to the web server, so the resource path is clear. Consider a document tree as an example of how Apache views the server filesystem.

Nginx, on the other hand, can be used as a load balancer, proxy server, or web server. As a result, requests must be submitted as a URI in order for Nginx to process them. Nginx, for example, employs server and location blocks, the first of which reads the requested host and the latter of which matches the URI sections subsequently. The entire request is transformed into a URI.

In general, Nginx is more flexible with URIs since it can adapt to whatever purpose it is performing. Despite this, Apache’s approach works since it simply has to act as a web server.

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Nginx vs Apache: Which is better for your server in 2021?

The all-encompassing solution to the question, “Which server software should I use?” is straightforward: Whichever one your hosting company provides is the one you should use. In many circumstances, you will not have an option. We’ve noticed that many web providers follow the same approach, which you should follow if you’re deciding between Nginx and Apache.

Apache is a good choice if you want to host a server that requires constant setup or if you want to give users a configuration option.

Nginx, on the other hand, is the way to go if you want super-fast performance, rock-solid security, and the ability to manage configurations rather than your users.

Because of its fundamental architecture, Apache can take up more RAM in terms of performance. In high-traffic cases, Nginx will perform better, especially if there is a lot of static material to manage.

Nginx may thus be the ideal solution if you rely on caching to store and serve content. Remember that Nginx can’t provide dynamic material, therefore your performance will be affected by the effectiveness of the proxy your server utilizes.

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